Aston Villa carelessly wasted a fine opportunity to get back into a challenging Premier League position when they were held to their first goalless league draw of the season by West Ham United.
With only one point from their last three games, Villa have lost their momentum. But it was another occasion when they struggled to make an impact against one of the bottom ten clubs.
West Ham, however, were delighted with a fighting draw as the point took Gianfranco Zola's beleaguered side out of the bottom three. The Hammers were indebted to some fine saves by goalkeeper Robert Green and an industrious performance from Scott Parker, who unfortunately limped out of the game with a leg injury.
After suffering defeat at West Ham a few weeks ago, Villa were intent on revenge but their lack of bite in attack proved to be a major setback. It could mean that Villa might have to give some serious consideration to improving this department in the January transfer window.
Villa's defence, which has conceded only 18 goals in 21 league matches, was again solid but they had a few anxious moments keeping debut boy Frank Nouble in check. The former Chelsea trainee very early made a dream start when he outpaced both Stephen Warnock and Richard Dunne before narrowly shooting just wide when challenged by Brad Friedel.
Most of the attacking play was generated by Villa in this period and the Hammers were indebted to two smart saves in the space of a minute by England goalkeeper Green. In the first instance he pushed away a high ball from Ashley Young which was heading for the far top corner of the net. Seconds later, Gabby Agbonlahor turned and shot from close range but Green displayed his credentials when he pushed away the effort for a corner.
Despite constant Villa pressure the West Ham defence steadfastly refused to buckle. Skipper Matthew Upson and James Tomkins were stalwarts in keeping the Villa attack at bay in the goalless first half. Parker, who returned after a month on the sidelines with a hamstring injury, also played a key midfield role in relieving the pressure.
As a result, Villa became increasingly frustrated by their inability to overcome the Premier League strugglers. They raised their hopes of a breakthrough early in the second period when quick passes by Agbonlahor and Emile Heskey put James Milner in possession only for his rasping shot hit the outside of the post.
Heskey was then replaced by John Carew who forced the ball into the net only to be rightfully ruled offside following a Stewart Downing shot. Agbonlahor then turned and shot over the bar which led to manager Martin O'Neill holding his head in his hands.
The Villa boss would have had every reason to be dismayed in the 71st minute when former West Ham defender James Collins sliced a cross from Junior Stanislas over his own crossbar.